Sunday, March 24, 2013

No Need to Cry for Us, We are Having Argentine Food

Villa Roma
25254 La Paz Road
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

It always seems to be the case. When it is restaurant week, that is always the week we are the busiest. Whether it be Ducks games, family dinners, or get together with friends, or as was the case for this years Orange County restaurant week, we had all three of these things to do on this very jam packed week. With so much going on it left us with just one night to enjoy the prix fixe meals from some of the top restaurants in OC. With just one night to ourselves, we wanted to experience restaurant week, but we didn't want to travel far from home. So we went to the closest participating restaurant to us, which just happened to be Villa Roma.

Villa Roma is located in Laguna Hills, behind the Hot Off the Grill, and in the same shopping center that has that empty restaurant on the corner that has been many different eateries including Elephant Bar and Yamato. Both of those restaurants are now long gone, but Villa Roma has survived in that same shopping center for close to eight years now. Villa Roma was originally located in Lake Forest back in 1993, but due to the remodeling and closure of the shopping center it was in, it necessitated a move. Also when Villa Roma opened it was strictly an Italian restaurant. Now after several trips to his native Argentina, the owner has incorporated Argentine food, as well as Italian.

We got to Villa Roma a little after six on a Thursday night. Coming from the outside, this restaurant is deceptively large. There is about twenty tables in the spacious dining room. A long bar off to one side, and they even have a market selling Argentine items, sandwiches, and wine. While we were eating here they switched from 80's music coming through the speakers, to live music standards played by a guitar wielding singer. During our visit the restaurant got to be more busy, but was never more than half full. Most tables were here to try the OC Restaurant Week menu, so let's see if this dinner was worth sacrificing a rare night at home for us.

Before we even ordered, this bread basket was placed before us. When it was placed in front of us my first thought was that this could have fed five people, not just Katie and I. Of course we took this as a challenge and ate the whole basket. The bread was soft on the inside, with a sturdy crust on the outside. In lieu of butter, we used the oil and vinegar provided on the table.

The restaurant week menu at Villa Roma featured four courses for $30. A really great deal. It started with our choice of appetizers. Of the three that were offered, I knew it was never in doubt that Katie would choose the Insalata Caprese. This appetizer started out with sliced tomatoes topped with buffalo mozzarella, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Katie was pretty impressed by the serving size of this starter. The thick cuts of tomato and mozzarella were both very fresh, and started Katie's meal off perfectly.

Much like how Katie's appetizer choice was never in doubt, mine never was either. The Empanada and Bruschetta was calling my name from the moment I saw this menu. The empanada was one of the best I have had. They come with either chicken, beef or spinach, and of course I selected the beef. The whole empanada was so well made from the great crust, to the not overly seasoned beef inside. These lacked the greasiness that I have had with other run-ins with other empanadas. I usually hesitate to get bruschetta, because my Mom always makes a big deal over me having something with tomatoes, since she knows my disdain for the fruit. I guess I will have to live with the gentle ribbing once again. This bruschetta featured lots of garlic, while not focusing too much on the tomatoes. Also making this even better, was the nice crunch that the bread had. I may never be a tomato guy, but this was a good bruschetta.

Onto course number two, the soup and salad portion of the evening. Katie had the Ensalada Mixta. This mixed green salad also included tomatoes, red onion, Kalamata olives, Parmesan cheese, and a vinaigrette dressing. The garlic flavor in the dressing really gave this salad a boost. It was also was helped by the fact that the produce was very fresh here. Katie went as far as calling this salad, "scrumptious". I think that means she liked it.

Lately I have turned into a soup kind of guy. At Villa Roma the same held true when I ordered the Minestrone Soup. This Italian vegetable soup was a little on the mellow side. I was asked if I wanted Parmesan cheese with this, and who would ever say no to cheese, definitely not me. The cheese brought the soup a needed flavor boost. The soup would have been okay on its own, but the cheese made this even better. This minestrone soup had a lot of veggies in this large bowl.

I have been with Katie for four years, and this is the first time I have seen her order eggplant. This Melanzane ala Parmigiana had a real eggplant lasagna feel to it. The eggplant was sauteed with ricotta cheese, herbs, and onions, then topped with mozzarella and marinara sauce. Katie was not too fond of this plate. She thought that this was a very bland eggplant, and the sauce needed more spice. This was served with a penne marinara, which Katie described as cooked well, but the sauce was very watery.

Since Villa Roma is an Italian/Argentine restaurant, and because Katie already got something off of the Italian portion of the menu, I had the Entrana Villa Roma. When I think of Argentine food, I always think of skirt steak and chimichurri. For those of you that are unsure what chimichurri is, it is a sauce traditionally made up of finely chopped parsley, garlic, olive oil, oregano, and red or white wine vinegar. It really goes well with steak. The chimichurri was very well made here, but the steak is what I had issues with. I know that skirt steak is not the best cut of beef, but this one did have some good parts to it. The middle part of the meat was very good and tender, but the ends were riddled with fat, and not cooked well at all. The serving size was very generous, but if it was not for the chimichurri sauce, the meat would have had a hard time standing on its own. This was paired with roasted potatoes and vegetables. The veggies were in big hunks and cooked nicely, while the potatoes needed to be a little more crisp, and brought to the table warmer.

We finally made it to course number four, dessert. The Housemade Flan Tiramisu sounded interesting, but we did not detect any hint of flan with this. The tiramisu was light, and not overly drenched in espresso. The mascapone was just right, and this was not as wet as some tiramisu's can be. A very solid dessert.

I of course saw chocolate as a dessert option, so I took the opportunity to order the Chocolate Mousse. I was surprised when this chocolate mousse came out as a slice, as I was expecting a cup of mousse for some reason. This mousse was accompanied by a raspberry sauce, which helped cut the sweetness of the rich chocolate. I would have liked this a little more if it would have had more of a cookie crust.

I guess after seeing all the food that we got during our visit to Villa Roma, you can say that this OC Restaurant Week deal was well worth the visit. We got all of this food for thirty dollars each, and when I added the individual prices up on the menu, it came to over $40 for each of us. A savings of $20 between us. The food here at Villa Roma was a little hit and miss. We both liked our starters and some other parts of the meal, but the entrees failed us. They were not awful, but both of us would probably get something else on future visits here. Dinners on their regular menu hover right around the $20 mark, which might be a tad high for this restaurant. The service we had on this night was very good. Even as the restaurant got busier as the night went on, our waiter and bussers took great care of us. Wish we had more time to visit other restaurants during OC Restaurant Week, but like I have said almost three straight years, there is always next year.

Out of five horses, (because the national sport of Argentina is not soccer, but a sport called, "pato", which is played on horseback, and is a mix between polo and basketball), five being best to zero being worst, Villa Roma gets 3 horses.

For more information on Villa Roma, click here:

Villa Roma Ristorante on Urbanspoon


  1. Gotta try this place. Have you been at Pasta Connection? that one is Italian-Argentinian, pretty good.

  2. Lilith - We have never been to Pasta Connection. I will put it on our list of places to try. Let me know what you think of Villa Roma when you go. Thanks for reading our blog.